Music

More Reflecting on 9-11- why we need "stupid" pop culture

To follow-up a previous post, I can across a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi called Americans in Denial About 9-11, which argues that not only haven't we figured out what the root cause of it but that it also did nothing to change American society. While the first point is worth repeating and definitely not a closed case ("they hate our freedom"??), the second point is dead wrong.

Did September 11th really leave us unscathed as Taibbi thinks? Ask comedian Paul Mooney. "Everyone's black now. Don't believe it? Go to an airport." Or consider the success of TV series "24" which is pinned around stories of terrorists. Or consider that at this moment, Bush's fear-mongering and purposeful confusion of Bin-Laden and Hussein is being rewarded by a (hopefully temporary) uptick in his approval ratings. Basically, his scare tactics seems to be working: "stick with us or the boogeyman's gonna get ya."

Though I'm sure Taibbi doesn't mean to, his own musings about 9-11 and how it didn't manage to wipe out idiotic pop culture plays right into Bush's plans, which is to keep us all afraid. Taibbi thinks it's a bad sign that we still have ridiculous reality shows, which means that he was he hoping that an attack would wake up this country (to what?) back in 2001. But it's interesting to remember that a fellow Rolling Stone staffer didn't agree with him back then. On a CMJ panel not long after September 11th, RS editor Joe Levy said that after watching CNN ceaselessly during that time, he was relieved when watching the crawling headlines on the bottom of the screen, there re-appeared the usual pile of trashy celebrity news. Levy said that he breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that- things were slowing getting back to normal.

So who's right? Is it Taibbi grieving that we're no better off than before Sept. 11th in terms of pop culture and our priorities or Levy who cheers the same indomitable spirit? While I can sympathize a little with Taibbi (the only reality show I can watch is the Apprentice 'cause the Donald is such a funny asshole), I'd have to agree with Levy in the end. Love it or hate it, we need pop culture. It's a good diversion because we'd go nuts if we were always gripped with fear over terrorism. Also, believe it or not, sometimes pop culture is good stuff. I've argued enough about music here but even on the tube, there's few who will deny the quality of the Sopranos or the Wire and even on regular network TV, there's good shows like "the Office," "Lost" and "My Name is Earl," all of which I wouldn't want to give up.

Ultimately, what I think Taibbi is hoping for is that we as Americans (soapbox time, folks) became more aware of the world around us and more politically savvy instead of a bunch of drones who believe White House press releases (you know, like much of the media now). I think that's commendable but a major part of the problem is that we don't have any leadership in either of the two parties that would inspire such a sea change. Even we did "wake up," who's to say that we still couldn't have pop culture, icky reality shows and all? It's our right as Yanks, goddamnit.

And as I unfortunately predicted, as one disaster anniversary replaces another, the tragedy of New Orleans is already being forgotten again, only waiting to be dusted off next August when the next anniversary comes around again...

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
9
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image